The triumphant beast rose, the head of its vanquished enemy still in its mouth. As the rat’s limp body dangled, the beast turned its bloodthirsty glare upon Victor. He pressed his hands to the floor, ready to shove himself right back under the bed, but then an odd look came over the beast’s face. Its eyes widened and welled up; its chest began to heave. One by one its huge paws stepped back, out of the bedroom. Victor watched the monster retreat, and then crawled out from under the bed. He crept to the door and poked his head out; the beast stood in the middle of the hall, hunched over with its head down, the dead rat lodged in its beak. The beast gave a muffled straining sound, and then went berserk. It started spinning in circles, flinging its head back and forward, until it thumped into the wall and fell down. Lying on its side, it lashed out with its front paws, trying to extract the rat from its throat, but the unnatural proportions of the beast’s anatomy made it impossible. Rolling on its back and trying to swat the rat loose with its hind legs proved just as ineffective. Panic set in and the beast became a whirlwind of flailing paws, writhing on the floor. Gradually its movements slowed and weakened. It rolled on its side and mustered its remaining strength to lift a mammoth front paw, which hovered, trembled for a second, and then dropped to the floor.
Two minutes passed before Victor dared move. He went to the desk and took a pencil, went back to the doorway, and threw the pencil at the beast. It struck it on the leg and bounced off. Victor closed the door almost shut and watched through the gap in the doorway; the beast laid motionless. He went to the bookshelf and picked the thickest hardback he could see. Opening the door again, Victor flung the book into the hall; it thudded into the beast’s stomach. Again the beast laid still. Victor watched for another minute, and then a smile stretched across his face. He stepped out into the hall and approached the fallen creature. Its body had a slightly awkward, deflated appearance, and its chicken eyes were closed. Victor nudged it with his foot. He put his hands on his hips and shook his head.
“Choked to death on a rat. Who would have thought?”
As he looked down on the dead beast, Victor noticed a peculiar change. The beast’s black fur faded. It morphed into a pale grey, and then to sun-bleached white. The once thick, lustrous hairs withered, and then vanished as though sucked beneath the skin, leaving the beast entirely bare. Its smooth, taut skin wrinkled and slumped, losing all elasticity until it took on a jelly-like appearance. Victor’s face was aghast yet he watched on. Small lumps formed on the beast’s flaccid skin, and then, one by one, began to pop. They were bubbles. Faster and faster the bubbles formed and popped, as though the beast was boiling. Its body shrivelled, quivered for a moment, and then imploded into a pool of murky liquid.
“Good grief,” said Victor.
He covered his mouth with his hand. The muddy puddle that was just minutes ago a ferocious, unholy dog-chicken amalgam started to swirl. The centre of the puddle rose in a thin cone shape, like an inverted tornado, swaying as it grew taller. With a loud, slurping, gurgling sound, the liquefied beast began disappearing into the ceiling, as though sucked upward into a drain.
In a few seconds the liquid was gone. A single drop fell from above, followed by a tiny, shining ball.
“Oh, yes!” cried Victor.
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